Police have arrested a man who is accused of yelling at and throwing things at Robeks employees in Fairfield after his son had an allergic reaction to a smoothie from the store on Saturday.
Officers received numerous 911 calls from employees at Robeks on Black Rock Turnpike around 2:26 p.m. reporting a customer was throwing things, yelling at employees and refusing to leave.
According to investigators, 48-year-old James Iannazzo, of Fairfield, made a purchase at Robeks around 1 p.m. and left the store without incident.
About a half hour later, authorities said Iannazzo called 911 and requested EMS to his house for a minor who was suffering from an allergic reaction. The minor was transported to an area hospital.
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Shortly after, police said Iannazzo returned to Robeks and confronted employees. He yelled at them and demanded to know who had made the smoothie, which he believed contained peanuts and caused his child's allergic reaction, they added.
When the employees could not tell Iannazzo which of them had made the smoothie, investigators said Iannazzo became irate and yelled a number of expletives at the employees. He then threw a drink at one of the employees, hitting their right shoulder. The employee was not injured.
Authorities said Iannazzo also made comments towards an employee that referenced their immigration status.
Despite being told to leave by the employees multiple times, police said Iannazzo remained inside, continued to yell insults at the employees and attempted to open a locked door that led to an "employees only" area where the employees were behind the counter.
An employee who recorded the incident spoke with NBC Connecticut about what happened.
"It's like such a shocker because we love our jobs and like, we feel super safe there. But now it's not the same anymore," said Charli Hill.
Iannazzo left the store before police arrived, but was identified shortly later. He turned himself in to police without incident.
Officers said Iannazzo told them that he was upset about his son having a severe allergic reaction and he went back to the store as a result.
"You just don't know what could happen at any moment. It was a real shocker to everyone. Because who would ever think it's ever gonna happen to me, but it did," Hill said.
While investigating, police said the employees reported that Iannazzo never told them about the peanut allergy and only requested that there be no peanut butter in his drink.
Iannazzo was arrested and is facing charges including intimidation based on bigotry or bias, breach of peace and criminal trespass. He is due in court on Feb. 7.
A spokesperson for Robeks released a statement about the incident saying:
"At Robeks, our priority is to protect both store team members and guests. The company and its franchisees have a zero-tolerance policy for this type of behavior, and we are thankful that the franchisee’s team members were not physically hurt. We appreciate the swift action by law enforcement and the judicial system in pursuing criminal charges for this unacceptable behavior."
A lawyer representing Iannazzo also released a statement on Sunday afternoon about the incident.
"Mr. Iannazzo wholeheartedly regrets the incident that took place at the Fairfield Robeks on January 22, 2022. Mr. Iannazzo placed an order at the Robeks and stressed to the staff that the product must not contain peanuts. His receipt acknowledged that the order should not contain peanut butter. His son has a life-threatening peanut allergy. Upon drinking the Robeks smoothie, his son had a severe allergic reaction which required transport via ambulance to the hospital. When faced with a dire situation for his son, Mr. Iannazzo's parental instinct kicked in and he acted out of anger and fear. He is not a racist individual and deeply regrets his statements and actions during a moment of extreme emotional stress," the statement from attorney Frank J. Riccio II said.
According to a spokesperson for Merrill Lynch, Iannazzo is no longer employed there as a financial advisor.
"Our company does not tolerate behavior of this kind. We immediately investigated and have taken action. This individual is no longer employed at our firm," a Merrill spokesperson said to NBC Connecticut in a statement.